Raising Up Our Narratives for Change Jan 2015

We’ve been away to rest, school, work, and take care of our families, and ourselves in the past several months. We are in the process of re-launching our Raising Up Our Narratives to shake up Minnesota Nice with our Asian Trans* and Queer selves this January 2015. Stay tune!

At this time we have decided to close submissions for one our important online organizing efforts, Raising Up The Hmong LGBTQQI Narratives to re-launch a new version. The Narratives campaign has amplified the many truths, struggles, and positive sides of being Hmong and LGBTQQI. We received over 30 submissions from across the states, and have reached over 16,000 views from around the world since publishing the stories more than a year ago. Additionally, we’ve also received positive messages from our readers who can identify with the stories. Writing and speaking is important in documenting our existences into history, and to end the dangerous and silencing idea that “There are no Hmong gays (LGBTQQI) ever.” There are still several remaining Hmong LGBTQQI Coming OUT stories that will be posted on December 12, 2014, and throughout this month.

Your story is important. If you are interested in sharing your story with our Narrative 2.0, getting involved, or have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Dee at dee@mwsmovement.com.

Thank you to all who have shared their stories, creating visibility, and speaking your truths.

Raising UP Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang’s Journey Forward Narrative

Disclaimer:
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I am going to take a different route in this endeavor of sharing narratives of being queer Hmong/SEA.  I never had a difficult time coming out or accepting myself as queer.  I do have troubles seeing what is to become of us, queer SEA, in our journey forward after we have come out.  Although these past stories have moved me like never before, I have had struggles that have prepared me for coming out and thus my “coming out” story has not been as inspirational.

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Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang (2013)

Story #21

Before my parent’s divorce when I was around 8-9 years old, I was just happy being myself and loving the things that I did.  Although I had toy guns and action figures as a boy, I also had dolls and mermaids.  I loved what I loved and grew a fondness for mermaids.  This love for myself was reinforced and supported by my loving family who did not care that I had an affinity for “girly” toys.  I lived with this joy throughout my childhood and nothing could have been better.  Happiness was only temporary for me though, because it took the separation of my parents to force my own growth.

Initially, I was fine and accepted my parents’ divorce.  I knew intuitively that they just didn’t function the way they used to together anymore.  However, my siblings took things differently because this divorce broke them down and shook them up.  It was like a fissure that thrashed, tore, and destroyed what they once knew was home.  Some of my siblings remained physically and mentally strong, while others were still struggling; still trying to recover from a harsh events that turned into their reality.  Out of the strong and the weak, I was one of the strong and so I did all I could to aid.

Due to this unavoidable situation my mom went through many financial hardships trying to pay off bills here and there and maintaining a house. My oldest sister struggled and persevered just trying to hold the bond of our family together.  Some of my other siblings just shut down after the divorce while the others learned to cope with the situation.  The middle brother had grown up as an angry child only to have this divorce amplify those issues.  One of my other brothers and I became his outlet for anger and we were bullied daily by him. I was targeted more so than the other and my siblings saw that, but did not know how to respond other than just shrugging it off and blaming his personality.  Despite this daily struggle I helped my family with chores around the house, like washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and generally just tending to my mom.

I remember whenever I would go crying to my siblings or parents, because I was being bullied, they’d always tell me to be the bigger person.  This began sinking in because I then embodied it by brushing my own feelings aside, thinking that they were wrong to have.  There were moments in my life where I remembered just crying out of no where and not knowing why.  Crying out of no where and realizing that I myself was not even feeling sad.  Crying out of no where and then telling myself that I was weak for doing so. I remember looking into the mirror and training myself to learn how to not cry because I could not take being vulnerable and targeted anymore. What I did not know was that I had come to silence myself so much that I had become detached from my own feelings and emotions.

You would think that I could find solace from this over at my dad’s house, but that wasn’t the case.  I was one of the only children to visit him and sleep over on a weekly basis.  I knew that he loved me and I loved him too.  However before I would go, my mom would tell me that I was never going to be worthy of his love because of the sole fact that I was also her son.  I remember hearing from my father multiple times that my mother did not even love me and is only using me for child support money.  At such an early age, I had to learn how to interpret their messages because they were only protecting me from the harm that they had faced with each other.  This however also bred much distrust and corruption within myself, and also brought so much internalized pain and altered my idea of love.

I began seeing the flaw within all that I cared for, and in order to protect myself from the risk of any further internal mutilation, as well as of my own growing bias of those I cared for, I closed myself off and denied myself the one thing that I always wanted and knew: love. I suffocated my heart and crushed any feelings that began to flourish all because I would rather have dealt with that pain than the more overpowering torture of loving someone, only to realize that it was all a lie.  All that had laid where my heart used to be was nothing but an empty husk of hollowness that slowly pulsated, gasping for life as the void slowly crept inside and began growing within it.

Darkness was the only thing that that held my heart, free of judgment and unconditionally, I was all too eager to accept whatever embraced me in that way.  I came to love the one thing that had been there with me throughout all the tribulations.  It was the only thing that evoked me of my humanity while I already lingered so far off the edge.  It constantly reminded me of how alive I had been through the sufferings that I endured.  When I could no longer see with a clear conscious and vision, it was darkness that enabled me to feel instead.  The very sensation that I had casted away.  I flourishing in the shadows of my own isolation.

I became my own morphed beacon of hope.  My mentality evolved from corruption into my own truth of knowing, that in the end, I was always going to be alone in my own journey and that no matter how similar someone was to me they would never completely understand. There was a haunting tranquility in knowing that even though there are those who loved me, they will not always be there; and the only person to be there with me in the face of darkness will be myself. So from this, I learned how to stand on my own and thus began my transformation into who I am today.

It has been and still is such a lonely path that I continue to tread on.  Overwhelming sadness that crawls through me and makes me motionless at the most spontaneous of times.  What seems like demons whispering into my ears and twisting my mind.  Pushing people who care for me away and bringing myself solitude just so that I can feel the familiar and welcomed touch of sadness to rush through me and have me feel something if anything at all.  Realizing that moments of true happiness has escaped from me and then already being so out of tune with myself that I was never present to experience them.  The most unbearable feeling of all though are the moments where I sense a state of surrealness within myself.  The feeling radiates coldness as well as warmth through my body, but I have become so numb that it even happens; it is as if I am undergoing an outer body effect.  Purgatory would seem is the closest definition that I have to describing it.  Neither feeling good or neither feeling bad, just there as if I was nothing at all and what seems like a moment just stops and feels like an eternity.

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Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang (2013)

The only things that seemed to have grounded me into reality was different aspects of myself who made me, me.  Part of that is myself identifying as a queer hmong man.  I had previous thoughts about this in middle school when I would be called gay on a weekly schedule, but I never thought of it as an insult nor was it spoken to me as such.  It was nothing big for me though, I was not going to let folks define me anyways.  One of the only examples was that I remembered this boy who was very handsome named Jared who just had an amazing smile, amazing hair texture, and style.  Sadly he moved away when it came time to high school.  Other than that one singular attraction, I hadn’t really thought about my sexuality back then.

This did get my mind going about what I really did find attractive, in terms of man or woman.  I began thinking and coming into realization that I had a different and stronger attraction towards men.  This was not coalesced until my sophomore year in high school because I was able to better articulate and have more access to resources to learn from.  I was more equipped to look up terms and definitions to identify myself more.

I officially “came” out to my sister when I was able to define myself.  It was just a weekday and my sister was in her room.  I had gone in very quietly and just said that I needed to talk.  When I finally told her that I was gay, she consoled me and said everything would be fine.  During that time I had cried and only after I “came out”, did I realize that I had nothing to cry about because there was and is nothing wrong with being queer.  After this, I never came out again because it shouldn’t be an “obstacle” that us queers, majority of the time, dread looking forward to.  I am fine with expressing my sexuality but it is but a part that contributes to a larger picture of the whole person that I am.

When seeking out help and friends from the gay community, I was mistaken by many folks whom were interested in other things.  I was not looking for sex at all and only looking to expand my perspectives and insights as a queer Hmong man.  One thing that I do remember was that majority of the people who messaged me were old white men.  It was fine but when they were only trying to dominate me, that was when I had enough of them.  I did message out other folks with more diverse backgrounds but only things I received were silence or ignorance.  I was so done with this and so I went back into my mind.  I did this to find out and process why and how racist and sexist the gay community really is.

Having become my own support, I was able to rely on myself again when I was not receiving support from the gay community. I casted them aside because they were nothing but a mirror of the oppressive ways that I did not need or wanted to be a part of.  I once again shut myself out but I am glad that I did this time because I was then able to seek out more specialized support with other Queer Asian Folks whom were not internalizing racism and sexism.  This then has lead me to being great friends and acquaintances with wonderful people who do great work with racial, social, economic, and intersections of all injustices in our world.  (MWSM)

There are also a lot of things that I wanted to incorporate into this story and how each aspect of my life had intertwined and affected one another, but for the sake of time and my own sanity, I have chosen a few major events that have shaped me.  Other things that I wanted to incorporate were: White Supremacy, Racism, Race, Classism, Sexism, Sexism within the Gay Community, White Supremacy within the gay community, body imaging, Social Justice works, and much much more. If you all have any questions, I am a core member of MWSM so feel free to send me an email Cuajleeg@mwsmovement.com a phone number can also be provided via email.

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If you’re compelled by Kennedy’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documentation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sign Petition/Share for Tet Parade to Include LGBTQ Vietnamese Americans.

LGBTQ Vietnamese Americans Rally

Take a stance against discrimination, read, sign and share widely:

http://www.change.org/petitions/let-vietnamese-american-lgbtq-people-participate-in-the-2014-t%E1%BA%BFt-parade

 

The Vietnamese American LGBTQ community needs your support to sign their petition: Let Vietnamese-American LGBTQ people participate in the 2014 Tết Parade.  LGBTQ Vietnamese American have been part of the Tet Parade in the past years until recently when new leadership voted to ban Vietnamese LGBTQ people from participating.

When you start excluding people because they fundamentally are not like you or because you’re homophobic that’s when you start dividing up community and enforcing discrimination.

 

Take a stance against discrimination, read, sign and share widely:

http://www.change.org/petitions/let-vietnamese-american-lgbtq-people-participate-in-the-2014-t%E1%BA%BFt-parade

2013 Minnesota Hmong New Year Outreach

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Today at the Hmong New Year in St. Paul, our collective canvassed and outreach to over 100 people including young people and elders, and over a dozen institutions.

We handed out MWSM pamphlets, Our Narrative and Movements: Peb Yog Hmoob Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer & Transgender. The pamphlet includes common questions of ‘coming out’ for Hmong LGBTQ people, and common questions about acceptance for Parents/Family with LGBTQ children/family members. To personalize, we quoted Hmong LGBTQ individuals who have contributed their diverse experiences in ‘coming out’ from our 2013 Hmong LGBTQQI Narratives Campaign. Lastly, you can read about the resources, trainings, researches and campaigns we currently have and are working on to enable us to be equipped in supporting our LGBTQ family and community members.

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Half of MWSM members @HNY2013

Don’t Buy Miss Saigon: Our Truth Project

Linda Hawj – Miss Saigon Lies, Don’t Buy it! Boycott The Ordway Theater!

 

My name is Linda Hawj. I’m an artist, activist & organizer from Minnesota. As a 2nd generation, Hmong American, queer womyn of color, this is my truth.

What kind of Minnesota & country are we living in when Vietnamese people, Southeast Asians & Asian Americans, their history & experiences are compromised & violently eliminated repeatedly? All because White people & White Supremacy cries censorship about their White privilege no longer having the “freedom to express” their racist art. What’s truly sad & horrible is how White Supremacy have & continues to police & control what is Racial Justice & Equity, & the Non-Profit Organizations, leaders, politicians, funders & foundations who do “Racial Justice & Equity work” & serve the Southeast Asian, Asian American & Communities of Color. Your White Supremacy is all the Executives, Presidents, CEOs, Boards, Committees, funders & donors, majority all head by rich, White Privileged people that call the shots in their capitalist, political strategies.

3 Actions You Can Take to Support & Share to Mobilize:

1) SUBMIT YOUR TRUTHS HERE: http://dontbuymiss-saigon.tumblr.com/

2) SIGN OUR PETITION HERE: http://act.engagementlab.org/sign/DontBuyMissSaigon?source=field

3) The Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition is taking both individual and organizational endorsements of its statement to stand in solidarity to end Institutional racism, sexism & colonialism. Contact us for more information: dontbuymisssaigon@gmail.com

What Does Marriage Equality Mean for the Hmong American Community?

Make sure to grab your Hmong Today newspaper and check out one of our collective member, activist & scholar Kong Pha’s piece on ‘What Does Marriage Equality Mean For the Hmong American Community?’ Drop us a few comments, let us know what you think Marriage Equality means for the Hmong American community and to you.

Hmong Today Newspaper: Hmong Americans & Marriage Equality

Raising UP MYY’s Family Is the Biggest Inspiration & Support to Coming OUT Narrative

http://www.salon.com/2005/06/17/saving_face/

Saving Face film. Photo Credit Salon.com

Story #10

MYY is a shamanist, 21 year-old woman who identifies as bisexual from Wisconsin.

The first time I notice that I was attracted to the same-sex was when I was 12 years old. I could not understand why I was feeling that way about this new girl I just met. All I knew was that I was very attracted to her and I wanted to know if she had felt the same about me. When I confronted her with my feelings, she nicely rejected and explained to me that she did not feel the same way as me. After that happened, I tucked away how I felt about girls and started dating boys. At the time, I was confused as to why I had felt that way, but I didn’t look too much into it.

Hmong Trans* & Queers Rally at St. Paul Capitol for LGBTQ Justice & Equity

Hmong Trans* & Queers Rally at St. Paul Capitol for LGBTQ Justice & Equity – Photo Credit MWSMovement.com

I’m very close to my family, so I turned to them hoping they could help me. I did not know what to expect from them because this whole thing happened so quick. Surprisingly, they were very understanding and supportive. They told me that they will always accept me for who I am, so I should accept me for who I am as well. From there, I started dating my first ex-girlfriend. My family was such a big inspiration because they were there every step of the way while I was trying to figure myself out and come out to my other love ones. It’s been four years now that I’m out and none of my relationships has changed at all. Everything is going well for me right now.

I don’t feel as if the Hmong Community is supportive of me but I don’t blame them. This is a very touchy and new subject in our Hmong community. I think with a little courage and a lot of education, we can fix that problem. I didn’t even know that we have Hmong LGBTQ organizations out there. I recently found out about an organization from Minnesota called Shades of Yellow. The Asian organization from my university invited SOY to our speak out during Asian Heritage Month back in April, and I was so moved and inspired during their presentation. I think LGBTQ does fit in our Hmong Culture but it’s going to take a lot of time before it fully fits in. I feel that we should speak out more about it and educated those who know little about the LGBTQ community. I believe that in 10-15 years from now, LGBTQ will be accepted and become a part of our Hmong Culture.

Photo Credit MWSM

Hmong queers Vote NO on Marriage Amendment 2012 – Photo Credit MWSM

One of the issues I’m facing today is deciding on which path I want to take on for the future. I’m the next one in line to get married in my family, and I’m also the only one who is not heterosexual. My family accepts me for who I am but what I always question myself if I want to marry a man or a woman, if I want a Hmong wedding, and how do I want to start my family. Yes, I understand that you can get all those regardless of your sexuality but I see the kind of a family my siblings have and that’s what I want as well. I think the Hmong LGBTQQI community is being impacted by our old traditions.

The reason I’m only out to certain people is because people are so quick to judge. All the amazing people who truly love and care for know about my sexuality, and they’re very supportive. It’s the new people that I meet that makes me iffy about if I want to share that kind of personal information with them. They don’t know me enough to understand where I’m coming from, which I don’t blame them. Plus, I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable around me.

If you’re compel by MYY’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documenation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP LP’s Anew Beginning to Truthful & Honest Expressions Narrative.

Photo Credit The Voices Project

Kim Ho – Language of Love. Photo Credit The Voices Project

Story #9

LP is a 24 year-old gay man from Alaska. (LP is not the real name of the person of this story)

I am a late bloomer. I was 18 when I became aware that I was attracted to men. This instance occurred when I had met someone at my workplace, and I knew it was lust at first sight. At that moment, I felt as if the world had stop. Every time I am near or working beside him, I feel as if a sharp knife continually pierces through my heart. I became aware of everything about him, my face, his body, everything. I wanted to touch him, to kiss his lips, to feel his big bugle. I wanted him more than anything. Whenever we talk about girls, I became so arouse thinking of him giving it to me or me giving it to him. It was truly lust. That was my first instance of my own sexual desires and my own consciousness about who I was.

Like most Hmong family, I am very family orientated. My parents and my siblings are my life. If I was to come out, I feel I might lose my entire family or be kicked out of my house. Friends and family members who were on the outside are also my backbone. They have shaped me to become the person that I am today. If I were to reveal that part of me to them, I might lose everything that I had built with them.

Photo Credit: MWSMovement.com

I do not know if the Hmong community is supportive of me cause I have not had the chance to engage with the Hmong LGBTQQI community, nor had the chance to come out to them. I think most Hmong LGBTQQI are still silent or have to be silent because of the importance of “family values” in their lives. That is, most of the Hmong youth and those who are part of the older generations that I know are very family-orientated. That means that they are willing to give up their individuality for the betterment of the “family.” As long as “family values” remains unchangeable, and as long as that remains the barrier to coming out, then Hmong LGBTQQI will continue to live in silence. Personally for me, the main issue I face is that there isn’t a Hmong LGBTQQI community where I live. Thus, I do not have any opportunities to know and see any Hmong LGBTQQI faces. And again, the idea of “family value” continues to be a barrier for me because I am the oldest in my family and there are things that are expected of me which does not include coming out or being gay.

There are 3 reasons why I came out. First, I knew that I could not keep my sexuality as a secret for the rest of my life. I did not want to live in loneliness like how I used to be. I had always felt alone for most of my life and if I do not let myself be happy and loved for who I am, I might not want to be alive for much longer. Second, I knew that it would all be okay when I do come out. I am very fortunate and thankful to have a loving and supportive network of outside friends and family that were accepting of me. Last, I want to love and be loved by someone.

It has been 4 years since I first came out and many things did change. No one knew that I was gay because I am not stereo-typically gay, such as being flamboyant. Therefore it came as a shock to many people. It did take some time, but everyone eventually understood why I am the way I am. Like a puzzle, they put everything I had said and done together, and it made sense to them about who I am. I felt that a big burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I could begin to express my feelings more truthfully and honestly. In return, my spirit became lighter and happier. I care less about what other think or say about me because I already came out to the people whom I care and hold dearest to my heart already.

Bangkok Love Story. Photo Credit: http://formanz.com/

It was hard to come out because of the risks that I knew were coming and because of bonds I have made with my family and friends, but it took me a long time to realize that it is those bonds I had that gave me the courage to believe it would be okay and that things can get better. Although I am not out to everyone, I am out to certain people who matter to me and who made me feel safe to be who I am.

If you’re compel by LP’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documenation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.